Oracle E-Business Suite printing made easy with Pasta!

by Kenny Miller, Principal Consultant for Rocela

This one is for my fellow EBS veterans who’ve spent more time than they’d like to admit fiddling with application printer settings. Maybe, like me, you’ve been aware of Pasta but have been too busy to find out what it is and how it works.

Necessity is indeed the mother of all invention so, when recently faced with a challenging printing requirement, I was forced to find out all about Pasta. I liked what I found, so I thought I’d share my experiences with you.

The Requirement

My client is upgrading from R11 to R12. In R11, they only needed to print text output directly from the concurrent manager. However R12 comes with many more standard XML Publisher reports, so they now have a requirement to print PDF output.

My client also has hundreds of printers, from many different manufacturers and of different vintages! More specifically the requirement was:

1) Print all text and PDF output directly from the concurrent manager.
2) Print in PCL because:
a.  Not all printers support PostScript.
b.  Not all operating system print queues are enabled for PostScript, even for printers that actually do support it.
3) Minimise the amount of application set-up changes required.

So what is Pasta?

The following is taken from the System Administrator’s Configuration Guide:

“Pasta is an Oracle E-Business Suite utility that converts text report files to PostScript and also enables the printing of custom PostScript reports from Oracle E-Business Suite. The reports can then be directed to any PostScript printer.

Setting up your system to use Pasta is much simpler than the standard Oracle E-Business Suite printer setup procedure. The Printer Type, Printer Driver, and SRW driver files are provided. The only setup required to begin printing is the registration of the printer with Oracle E-Business Suite.

Many printing options can be defined using the Pasta configuration file (pasta.cfg). You no longer need to maintain multiple drivers and styles for each printer.

Pasta is provided as an executable named FNDPSTAX.”

I make no apology for copying this – it’s actually a good summary of Pasta. However the first paragraph only mentions PostScript i.e. converting text to PostScript, printing custom PostScript reports to PostScript printers etc. Mere mortals may have given up at this point, thinking Pasta is only about PostScript and isn’t able to do PCL. Yours truly is made of sterner stuff, and decided to have a look “under the hood” to find out what Pasta is really capable of.

PostScript or PCL?

Well, “out-of-the-box” Pasta actually does neither! All it’ll do is print text!

However, the Pasta configuration file does provide a “pre-processing” option, which can invoke any executable that supports an input file and an output file. Therefore, executables such as pdftops and acroread can be used to convert PDF’s to PostScript, or Ghostscript can be used to convert PDF’s to PCL!

The default configuration file is $FND_TOP/resource/pasta.cfg and by adding the following line to this file, PCL printing is enabled for both text and PDF output:

preprocess=gs -q -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -sDEVICE=pxlcolor \

-dNORANGEPAGESIZE -sOutputFile={outfile} {infile}

In summary, this is using the Ghostscript executable (gs) to convert the input file to PCL. The device switch of pxlcolor tells Ghostscript to convert to colour output in PCL XL format. PCL XL (also known as PXL) is part of PCL version 6 which was released by HP in 1996, and should therefore be supported by all modern printers.

Problem Solved

My client is now able to print text and PDF output in a variety of different print styles, to printers from different manufacturers. To do this, all that was required was the following:

1) The change to pasta.cfg described above.
2) Changing the printer type to the seeded:
–PASTA Universal Printer Type
3) Bounce the concurrent manager.

Sounds too easy!

It would be very time-consuming to test all combinations of print styles and printer types; therefore you need to be realistic enough to expect the occasional anomaly. Pasta caters for exceptions by providing:

1) Printer specific configuration files.
2) Printer Driver specific configuration files which can be specified in the arguments for the Printer Driver.
3) A combination of Printer and Printer Driver specific configuration files!

If you’re able to successfully print output from the command line, then Pasta will be able print the same output from the concurrent manager.

Summary

I’ve found Pasta powerful but simple to use. If you already know your way round EBS printer set-ups then you’ll take to Pasta like a duck-to-water. Even if you don’t, it’s well worth investing some time to better understand it. It’ll be well worth it.

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A Standard Way of Thinking – Final Part

Written by Paul Bullen, Senior License Consultant

In my previous blog posts on Standard Edition (Part 1, Part 2), I referred to the massive reduction in price from Enterprise Edition to Standard (92% in our typical example). Hopefully you’ve had some time to realise that Standard Edition is a viable database edition and could, with some discussion, potentially replace some use of Enterprise Edition in your company. In this last blog post, we’ll look at Named User Plus licensing for Standard Edition and summarise my previous blogs posts.

So, hopefully you’ll remember from my earlier blog post that Named User Plus licensing is not trivial, and needs careful management. With that in mind, let’s look at the differences with Named User Plus on Standard Edition.
With Enterprise Edition database, you have to license the greater of either the actual users of the software or the ‘Named User Plus minimums’. This can get messy; especially with database options (read this). Most people think of the minimums of 25 NUP per Processor when considering NUP licensing for DB EE.

So, what is the minimum for DB SE? The answer is a simple ‘5’; No, not 5 per Processor, you must own at least 5 NUP licenses in your company; if you have 5 Named Users, 5 NUP licenses and 1,000 servers running Standard Edition, you would be licensed correctly. So, 5 is the answer.

This lack of minimums makes a massive difference across a large estate. Consider that each set of 25 DB EE NUP will cost $23,750 (list price) and that for Standard Edition this will be zero, you can probably see that the savings soon start to mount.

It brings the Named User Plus metric back to a point of common sense: you buy an SE Named User Plus license for everyone who uses Oracle, simple as that. You have no minimums to calculate or track; you have no database options to mess things up. You get an effective and capable product for a reasonable price, and therefore reasonable on-going support costs.

So, to wrap things up:

  • Standard Edition database is a very capable product and can probably run most of your workload
  • SE is significantly cheaper than Enterprise Edition database: we are talking over 70% savings on capex and opex here
  • Unless you specifically need Oracle’s extra cost options or management packs, there are very mature and cheaper alternative products available

In my view, Standard Edition database should be your “Standard way of thinking” i.e. your database edition of choice if you want to get best value and reduce costs: Enterprise Edition should be used as an exception. As with any large change, it is always worth consulting the experts before you undertake a significant change to your current or future estate (as we could save you even more!)

Please feel free to ask me any questions on this or any other Oracle licensing related topics.

CustomerCare Program

During our 10 year history of helping clients solve their Oracle problems, our aspirations and desires for success has driven considerable growth in revenues and our team – this is all good, however from time to time, we may have struggled to balance focus on client achievements with the pains of growth and success.

Many of our clients have supported Rocela since the beginning of our journey and may have witnessed some of our successes (and possibly, some of our failures). We may not always have done enough to share the journey with our clients or made it simple for them to offer feedback, air concerns or even explore new opportunities and ideas.

So as we enter a further phase of growth we want to ensure that our client intimacy and core values that have always been the platform of our success remain so into the future. Without client input, our innovation and growth will slow and our ability to serve will be eroded.

It is with this motivation in mind that we recently launched Phase I of our CustomerCare program. Over the summer, our Control and Professional Services Managed client base was introduced into this new program marked by the presentation of a small launch-pack, which also formally acknowledged our gratitude for their loyalty and support.

Phase I program aims are:

  • To acknowledge our managed services and ‘Control’ clients’ loyalty and business
  • To thank them for their continued support
  • To ensure that we continually provide excellent customer service through annual Customer Satisfaction surveys
  • To facilitate continual improvement for the services we provide

In Phase II (early 2013), we will extend the CustomerCare program to include our License and Professional Services Consultancy projects (where appropriate) to ensure that we continue to provide excellent customer service and value for money across all client engagements and service lines.

The output from the CustomerCare program is a fundamental part of how we assess our performance against client expectation and take soundings to improve services and support in 2013 and beyond.

If you have any questions on our CustomerCare program, please do not hesitate to contact linda.anderson@rocela.com

Rocela Events ….. coming up!

As we enjoy our typical Scottish summer (!), our thoughts turn to our next stream of Rocela events programmed for autumn and, dare I say it, winter!

Our Thought Leadership Sessions are as popular as ever – events in the enterprise software marketplace continue to provide much fodder for speculation, debate and serious discussion;

• The rate of Oracle’s acquisitions must be causing much consternation in most CIO and Senior IT professionals’ minds. How does a large enterprise organisation manage this ever increasing portfolio of products? How do they ensure value for money and risk reduction?
• Oracle aside, what about the bigger picture – enterprise application software asset management covering all the biggies! Where do you start with this sometimes herculean task?
• And more recently, the recent ECJ ruling on used software trading has raised many questions with no clear answers at this point. This one is likely to run on and on and on.

How to control costs, reduce risk and remain compliant is still high on enterprise organisations’ agenda. Our Rocela Control™ sessions remain a firm favourite with our prospects who relish the chance to discuss this often complex area in a safe environment. They value listening to our clients who have, more often than not been in similar licensing situations and with Rocela’s help, now enjoy a high degree of license management and cost control.

Finally, the interest in R12 is still running high. Our professional services team have been very busy over the last 12 months with numerous R12 Upgrade or implementation projects – we have an unprecedented level of expertise in this area that we can bring to these very popular R12 sessions.

If any of these sound interesting and you would like to attend, then please contact Linda Anderson on linda.anderson@rocela.com to be added to the invite list.

We hope to see you soon.

A Standard Way of Thinking Part Two

by Paul Bullen, Senior License Consultant

In my last blog post, I introduced the basics regarding Oracle Database Standard Edition. To recap, Standard Edition/Standard Edition One is a very capable and high-performing database, which is limited by the socket capability of your server (maximum of 4 sockets for SE, 2 for SE1) and the inability to license and use some database options against your database: but all for a mere fraction of the price of Enterprise Edition. Note a key point here – it’s the capability of the server in terms of socket count that’s the restriction – not what’s actually deployed. If you have an 8 socket server that has only 2 sockets occupied, then SE/SE1 aren’t viable options.

But when it is viable, the potential savings are higher than I told you last time due to the way a Processor is defined for Standard Edition.

Expanding on the pricing model for Standard Edition, you are allowed to run any number of cores in those 4 sockets and you pay by the occupied socket, NOT by the core. Let’s look at the Dell R910 we mentioned last time. This has 4 sockets and so is fine for Standard Edition. Let’s not go daft here and just assume it actually has 2x Intel E7-2800 processors installed, with 10 cores per processor – and we are going to license it with the Processor metric (because we are very careful about using Named User Plus for licensing)

For Enterprise Edition, we need to do a quick calculation to work out the number of licensable ‘Oracle Processors’, i.e. take the core factor into account. So processors multiplied by cores per processor multiplied by appropriate core factor gives us:

2 x 10 x 0.5 = 10 Oracle Processors (for Enterprise Edition)
10 Oracle Processors (Enterprise Edition) at $47,500 each = $475,000 list license cost

Wow. Standard Edition is a bit easier – 2 occupied sockets give us 2 Oracle Processors;
2 Oracle Processors (Standard Edition) at $17,500 each = $35,000 list license cost

There’s no typo here. SE is 92% cheaper!! When you consider on-going support costs, this is significant.
Hopefully your interest is raised: why would you not go for Standard Edition? The main reason we hear is because some database options cannot be used in Standard Edition. Let’s clear one thing up straight away. RAC (Real Application Clusters) can be used with Standard Edition (not Standard Edition One), and best of all, in this case RAC will be free. Yes: you pay nothing to use RAC with Standard Edition! You have to split the 4-socket limit across the RAC cluster, so typically you’ll be looking at two servers each with two sockets, though you could have a 4 by 1-socket node cluster.

The database options ‘missing’ which seem to cause most pain or an issue to adopting Standard Edition are Diagnostics, Tuning packs and Data Guard. Each DBA and organisation has its own standards for supporting and managing database so it is hard to undermine or question them here however, given the cost savings, a review of any such standards is worthwhile.

It is also worth bearing in mind that for the three options mentioned, there are very good third party tool vendor solutions which offer very similar (and sometimes more mature) capabilities and are specifically built and marketed to function with Standard Edition.

Hopefully these posts are giving you a flavour of the potential that Standard Edition Database could have for your organisation: with everyone currently looking to reduce costs and demonstrate savings, Standard Edition (and our expertise!) may be your saviour. Next time we’ll look at some other ‘quirks’ of Standard Edition. I’m not going to have space here to go over every aspect of Standard Edition, so please let me know if you have any questions in the meantime especially if you are thinking of making the strategy change to Standard Edition.

Vote for Rocela – Oracle Partner of the Year Awards 2012/2013

Vote Rocela!

The UK Oracle User Group has recently revealed the shortlisted partners for the OUG Partner of the Year Awards 2012/13. Rocela are delighted to announce that we have been short-listed in 2 categories for this year’s awards.

The adjudicators, all end users of Oracle, have shortlisted up to six partners for each award and we are delighted to be included in the category for E-Business Suite Partner of the Year and Managed Services Partner of the Year.

We are inviting all of our clients to support Rocela in these awards and would kindly ask you to vote for us before the deadline of 10th September 2012.

Martin Mutch, CEO Rocela said “Being shortlisted for these awards acknowledges that Rocela continues to set the standard in the Oracle E-Business Suite and Managed Services industry – this recognition is thoroughly deserved by our hardworking teams and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for them and the final results later in the year.

APEX 4.2 Early Adopters at the Ready!

By Andrew Archibald, Senior Consultant

Oracle have just announced early adopters version of APEX release 4.2

https://apexea.oracle.com/pls/apex

A whole host of new functionality has been added to APEX proving not only that Oracle are committed to pushing forward with APEX but also how great a tool it is. Some of the new functionality includes;

• a faster application builder wizard allowing for simple applications to be built very quickly
• enhanced charting using both flash charting and HTML5 charts
• use of HTML5 page items with new item types such as sliders and additional attributes

… plus many many more features!

Go to http://apex.oracle.com/pls/apex/f?p=38997:1 for more details.

The look and feel to the Application builder has also come on leaps and bounds and looks very impressive. Enhancements have also been made to the wizards allow for quicker generation of objects. Delivered with APEX 4.2 are the same applications available with the Oracle Cloud – these pre-built applications can easily be installed and come with demo data to allow you to quickly get started.

The new feature that excites me the most are the built in Mobile templates using jQuery mobile.

This now makes it easier for APEX application to be ‘mobile ready’ with little effort – simple reports and calendars are some of the features which are available to application developers. Combine the mobile templates with the HTML5 Charts means that APEX is now a superb tool for building enterprise applications for mobile devices.

Happy Application development!

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